The Loss of a Legend

On Monday 30th October 2023, the world of snorkelling lost a great mentor and for me a close personal friend.

Mick White, former Dive Officer of Woking Snorkel and Scuba Club passed away peacefully aged 77, surrounded by his family.

I first met Mick in around 1991, when I was aged 16 years old when he taught and assessed my Snorkel Lifesaver Course, as the then BSAC Snorkel Advisor for Surrey. He was a calm, reassuring and knowledgeable tutor, and it was clear from the outset he had a passion for snorkelling and teaching like I’ve not seen in any other instructor before or since.

I had just started as an Assistant Snorkel Instructor and I aspired to be as good as he was. We became good friends, and he quickly became my mentor.

A year later our club was going to become leaderless, with many of our instructors moving on to new jobs or responsibilities. I wanted to step up and take charge but aged 17, I was too young to take on the role. Mick argued for me with BSAC to take on the position, despite my age, persuading them to allow me to take over with adult support. He set up a special Snorkel Instructor Training Course at his home, so that I could quickly become formally qualified and I suddenly became the youngest Dive Officer in the world. A role which I have held since that time…

As I developed through the ranks of BSAC Snorkelling, Mick was always there to guide and support me. Soon enough I became an Advanced Instructor, then Instructor Trainer, and in time he stepped aside for me to take on his role as the BSAC Snorkel Advisor for Surrey. From there we went on to work together regularly running the Snorkel Instructor Training Courses for the South of England, with our other close friend Graham Griffiths of Dorking Snorkel Club (another instructor trainer who Mick had also trained up like me). It seemed like there was no one in the snorkelling world who hadn’t at some time been taught by Mick. He was a legend.

We would regularly bump into each other at Littleton Lake with our respective clubs, and we would be so busy catching up and exchanging new ideas in training, we would forget we had students to teach. He was just one of those friends who no matter how long it had been since you last saw each other, it was like we only saw them the day before. His warmth, compassion, and enthusiasm was infectious and I will really miss it.

Mick was always there to offer advice, have a laugh and a joke, or when needed grumble about the state of snorkel training. We called ourselves the Statler and Waldorf (Muppets) of the snorkelling world. Talking on the phone for hours at a time about the state of BSAC training programs or the quality of the log book and how we could do it better. We regularly yearned for the good old days of the National Snorkellers Club, in which we both started our snorkel training. We vowed one day to restart it all, but in reality we never would, and just liked to grumble like the couple of old men that he was and I tried to be.

In recent years sadly Mick became ill, and had to step back from teaching at his club. Something I know really upset him. We still stayed in touch however, and he was always ready to guide me or give me new ideas from home.

Sadly covid and life meant we didn’t have many opportunities to catch up in person recently. Annoyingly too, the day before I was told he had passed away, he popped into my mind, and I realised I hadn’t spoken to him in a few months. I thought, “I must give him a call soon”, but sadly when the opportunity arose, it was too late. Something that I will forever regret.

In recent days, I have heard from his club about how well thought of he was by so many, and even that his nickname was “Mick the Map,” as he used to get lost traveling to even known dive sites… This new bit of information made me laugh as I could clearly see it in my mind’s eye. He truly was an entertaining guy.

In life, there are only a handful of people who really have a truly influential effect on your being. Your parents and grandparents, or maybe a few friends or teachers. I would count Mick as one of these people. He was always there for me, through good times and bad. Ready with calm reassurance, new ways to look at things and great advice. He was a person to aspire to, someone who’s training methods and ideas I’ve revered and copied over and over. He will forever be the godfather of snorkelling, as far as I am concerned and I am proud to have known him and been taught by him.

He will be truly missed.

RIP Mick, we will keep your legacy going…